Tuesday, December 25, 2012


The news this year has not inspired confidence in America's governance or in the outlook for a troubled globe. I continue to frame my views of events as one who served his country while young. Now as an older guy, my experiences in industry and politics have helped to inform my viewpoint here in the North Country. These are some selected postings from "The Opinions of a Navy Vet." April 17 TAXES ARE PAID May 25 AMERICA'S BEST DAYS June 2 MERCHANTS OF DEATH June 10 POLITICAL MONEY June 27 THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT July 4 THE JOB CREATION MYTH July 28 ELECTIONS - FIXING GOVERNMENT September 6 BROKEN POLITICS September 15 A DIPLOMAT HAS DIED September 22 THE 47 PER CENT November 3, 21 THE PEOPLE DECIDE, CONSEQUENCES December 8 FISCAL BUNK These commentaries are found on this blog, http://deregulate-gord.blogspot.com.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Firearms safety is on my mind December 15th. It is now a national issue beyond politics. Rapid-fire weapons and their large ammo clips must be banned and removed from commerce. Federal and State officials need to receive an avalanche of citizen outrage. The USA weaponizes the world.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


The news media has a current story that dominates every channel and every newspaper. It's the "fiscal cliff" that the country will tumble over at the end of the year, unless... Unless there is "grand bargain" between the Republicans who tried to hold up the government over the debt limit and the Administration that is trying to put the economy on a recovery track. Watching this political theater, with a "super committee" of Congress that failed to make the grand bargain, and the looming disaster intended to force the bargain, would be hugely entertaining, if it wasn't proof that the present Congress is hopeless. Republicans believe that ending Bush's income tax cuts on millionaires (returning them to the tax rates from the Clinton years) is going to somehow keep these rich guys from hiring more workers. Bunk. Workers get jobs when there is more demand for products and services. We've got a Jobs Problem not a Debt Problem. And we've got a broken infrastructure problem. Trains derailing. Bridges collapsing. Pipelines leaking. A shortage of affordable housing. We can put people to work, not by giving rich guys tax breaks, but by giving governments the funds to rebuild roads, bridges, rail lines, and air traffic control. We can convert spending for unneeded weapons into rebuilding this nation's structures, school systems, and public services. We need to learn again how to talk about people in this economy. Folks are rich, and they are poor. Some are in the middle. We have the elite, and we have the down- trodden. Yes, in America. The 99 per cent are not "Middle Class." There is an upper-, upper-middle-, middle-, lower-middle-, and a lower class. Everybody except the upper-class has not been getting ahead for a long time. It's no secret. In the recession that began in 2007 millions have fallen down from their place on this scale. Some losing jobs, many losing their homes, and too many losing hope in a system that has failed them. Now we hear the absurd and cruel suggestion that taking away some of the earned social security payments and some of the Medicare benefits from the elderly is the best way to avoid that made-up fiscal tumble off a cliff. We voted down the presidential candidate with these ideas. Getting the country back to work and out of debt will take some sacrifices. "Shared sacrifice" - from corporate elites, from wealthy heirs, and from ordinary citizens. Let's get on with the job and cut out the silly theater from Congress.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Elections have consequences. Two weeks ago the President led a vigorous Democratic reelection/renewal campaign to victory. National attempts at voter suppression and gay marriage division by Republicans boomeranged. Minnesota voters defeated consitutional amendments requiring photo ID for voters and a same-sex marriage ban. Then they overturned GOP control of both state houses. The U.S. Senate Democratic majority increased by two senators, and the Republican majority in the House was dimished by eight representatives. It is time, as Senator Amy Klobuchar puts it, for grown-ups in our nation's capital to get back to work on the people's business.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Tens of millions of dollars of political TV advertising are assaulting us as we search for entertainment in these pre-election days. You don't need to be a "Fact Checker" to identify some downright scarey stuff on the tube - over and over again! For much of it we can thank a Supreme Court that invited unlimited and anonymous money into the election. (Note: the future President appoints any new justices.) Is the voting public able sort out what they need to know to cast an informed ballot? Or has this democracy morphed into a government of the money, by the money, and for the money? Shifting TV focus for now - to the terrible destruction seen on the Atlantic Coast, where surging waters and driving winds have punished millions, and shown a nation what the future could look like. This image could radically change a "Climate of Denial" in America. Denial of climate change by Washington politicians killed action in Congress on "Cap and Trade" legislation a few years ago. These deniers insist that overwhelming majorities of respected climate scientists are mistaken when they they conclude that the globe is warming, that polar ice caps are melting, and that coastal regions are in jeopardy from rising sea level. (Like New York City and Eastern New Jersey) Today's political candidates don't all "deny" climate change phenomena. But most of them from both major parties have ignored it! However, Governor Christie and Mayor Bloomberg cannot ignore or deny the extreme weather that scientists predicted would come our way. The issue that was absent all year is now cruelly in front of everyone. So in just two days the people will decide. Which President? Which Congress? Which Legislature? What kind of campaign do we want next time? If you can decide, go and vote.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The 47 Per Cent

With a little more than forty days left in this heated presidential election campaign I have started paying close attention. This week I learned that I was part of Mitt Romney's 47 per cent who paid zero Federal Income Tax in 2011. However, for 2010 I did pay some income tax. Since Governor Romney only considers these past two years important for tax records, I looked no further. This makes me something of a dependent guy - not taking much responsibility himself. Possibly so, when you ignore the sales taxes we pay, and the property taxes on real estate and farmland that I own. With only 17 years of federal service in the U.S. Navy I cannot claim a pension for my military career. As a college NROTC midshipman, my four years of Naval Science and Summer Active Duty Training didn't count as service time. My shipmates from the Naval Academy started their commissioned service with a full four years, even though we were commissioned regular officers on the same date. Since I paid no federal tax last year let's see how I have made out as a veteran and a retiree. My wife and I collected about $25,300 from Social Security, and it was not taxable income. We paid the government $2,316 for our Medicare cards. (We are over age 65 and "retired.") This brings us to Gov. Romney's age, 65 years. I guess his primary job in recent years has been "managing his personal investments." Apparently this has paid him pretty well. But it puts him in the lowest tax bracket with geezers like me who have plenty of deductions to keep our taxable income down. Maybe I have more in common with the GOP candidate than I thought.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


This morning I listened to former Ambassador Ryan Crocker pay tribute to his friend Chris Stevens, new Ambassador to Libya who has just been killed in mob violence in Benghazi, Libya. Federal Service runs in my family - State Department, Defense, CIA, Management and Budget. In a movie that inspired me back in the 1950s, an Admiral asks aboard his aircraft carrier (it was the Essex) "Where do we get such men?" Chris Stevens was one of our very best; helping execute our foreign policy in Libya, a policy that is helping the Arab world reach for their freedom. Serving in this theater is full of risk. Even as four lives were just lost in the service of our country, U.S. political sharpshooters were on the scene looking for partisan advantage. It is hard not to be discouraged about trends in world events and in national governance. At times like this I think that maybe we have reached a "Tipping Point." Perhaps we have been on a downhill slide for a number of years, such that "The last best hope on earth" offers not much hope anymore. Let's look at some indicators: A Congress unable to pass a budget or agree on a jobs bill and a deficit reduction package. A Supreme Court that has overturned decades of campaign reform with a decision allowing corporate money to flood our elections. A housing collapse brought about by fraudulent lending - banks that hold up their customers! With a global population growing past seven billion inhabitants, we see enormous disparities world-wide in wealth and availability of resources. Shortages of fresh water and food coincide with dozens of conflicts between tribes and nations. And the USA profits from arming all sides in these wars. How will we know when we have fallen from our summit? How do you ask a warrior to be the last to die in an unjust war? There are no answers that are easy or simple. I grew up pledging to a nation with justice and liberty for all. One nation, not divided. I don't see that nation today. I am afraid that we have passed that tipping point already.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Both political conventions are now over. Billions of dollars are flowing, and the fighting is fierce - on TV, billboards, radio, yard signs, and bumpers. The language is intemperate. Lies, fact-checkers disparaged, "socialists, radicals," on and on. Is the two-party system beyond repair? The other week a friend repeatedly referred to his opposition as the "enemy." I tried to protest, but he continued with more insults. Plainly, many partisans cannot talk to others with anything like civility. Every day I receive emails telling how much money is needed to counter the hundreds of millions that a few billionaires are pouring into the campaign against Democrats. When I watch the blizzard of negative TV ads I think of all the better uses for my money than to fuel this fire. When neither federal nor state legislators can agree on whether government is necessary, or how it might be funded, we have lost our way. The way that children in America are taught about how democracy and representative government are supposed to work. Compromise is weakness? My way or else? I think I have already made enough contributions to the candidates who have demonstrated some common sense. I cannot abide any more partisan food fights.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


When gridlock gets you down, in Washington and in St. Paul, go and find a candidate running for office in your community. Listen, and then tell him/her what's wrong with the way things are for you. Unemployment, recession, climate changes, banks that hold up customers, housing fraud, politicians serving themselves. I have found my candidate in Crosby, Minnesota. His name is Joe Radinovich, a fourth generation Ranger from the Cuyuna Range, where we used to mine manganiferous iron ore. Joe is running in the new House District 10B, which includes Eastern Crow Wing County and all of Aitkin County. There is no incumbent here. I was present at Joe's announcing speech at the west edge of Ironton on May 30th. Quoting from this speech, Joe advocates "Investing in the best possible education and job training for our people, rebuilding our roads, bridges and public works, and by allowing everyone the dignity of a fair wage for a fair day's work." His campaign theme is "Together. Rebuilding Our Future." We can fix our government. One legislator at a time. On August 14th in Minnesota we choose our political party nominees in the Primary Election. On November 6th in the General Election we choose a President, a U.S. Senator, a Member of Congress in the U.S. House, a State Senator, and a State Representative. When they take office in January perhaps the promise of American Democracy can be fulfilled again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Some desperate politicians will say anything to win elections. In these troubled times of foreclosures and joblessness, the current promise of these electoral wannabes, with not much else to offer, is a "policy of job creation." Back in my engineering career, when the corporate boss wanted to increase our efficiency and pare costs down to the basic essentials, the search was on for "dead wood." By definition, the dead wood included those the Company could get along without. The 1980s and early ‘90s were a time of job reduction for many areas of the private sector. In the early years of the Clinton-Gore Administration, Vice President Gore was put in charge of "reinventing government," a process that resulted in widely-announced numbers of federal jobs eliminated. Any businessman who inflates payroll without an increased demand for his products and services doesn’t remain in business for very long. So how in the world does reducing income taxes for the wealthy bring about more jobs? It’s worse than a myth for the vulnerable and the gullible. It is a bald-faced lie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


In Aitkin County in Northern Minnesota we are experiencing record high water in lakes and rivers after torrential rains. We have received more than half a normal year's rainfall in May and June. The ground is saturated, so rainwater is all runoff. Watersheds are flushing into rivers and lakes, overflowing banks and flooding roads, structures, and farm fields. Local and state road crews, state troopers, sheriff deputies, and police officers have been on the scene, providing rescue and emergency services, flagging washouts, protecting lives and property. In this time of trouble let us remember who we depend on. Public servants. Police, Fire, Ambulance. Utility Workers. Well Drillers. Paramedics, Nurses, and Doctors. When wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods strike, the angry cries of those zealots who would "shrink government" are exposed as the rants of cruel fools. As I departed our County Board meeting June 26th I was proud of our Sheriff, County Engineer, and Commissioners, along with their capable staff members. They are committed to our safety, and they serve us well. Today the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State Department of Agricultural representatives were in the County Seat to help coordinate our recovery.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


A week of punditry has come out of Wisconsin. The recall failed and many are the supposed lessons spreading across the land. My tweet describes an empty suit stuffed with money, who bested the loser mayor from 2010. Too bad Democrats didn't rally with the labor union candidate to defend the right to unionize and bargain collectively. It's not enough just to fight and raise money. We've got to battle smarter and make every dollar and every volunteer hour count. I'm not singing the blues about all that Big Money from billionaires. Truth is, politicians of all stripes have gotten very comfortable with Big Money - Liberal and Conservative Money. How many votes will Charles Koch and his brother cast this November? The same number as you and me! Yes, a lot of distractions have been erected by politicians who think they can fool enough of the people this time. Do you want a picture ID for every voter? Are you shook up about homosexuals marrying each other? We have serious questions to think about between now and November. Questions for citizens who seek out facts, opinions, and exercise their own judgment in making decisions. No amount of money can persuade you otherwise, when you have judged right from wrong. These are the questions on my mind tonight: war, joblessness, child poverty, foreclosures, new graduates with debt, a changing global climate. I want candidates to answer these questions to my satisfaction, before they will get my vote. I have chosen three candidates to support and have sent them "political money." I have urged others to consider voting for these three. I will be at my polling place for the Primary and General Elections, as an election judge, to see that our precinct has integrity. Some things money cannot buy.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Why do they hate us? In the novel "Bloodmoney" a young man in mountainous Pakistan near the Afghan border survives a U.S. drone strike on his house, in which the rest of his family is killed. So begins a tale in which a new breed of CIA operatives in the Mideast become the mysterious victims of assassination. These new spies are loaded with money, not appropriated by Congress, but gained through crooked dealing with compromised financial partners. They are able to buy their way into positions of influence in the Middle East. Pilot-less aircraft have been around a long time. For decades kids with model airplanes flew them, and aboard ship we trained our anti-aircraft guns on radio-controlled fighters from World War II. In today's War On Terror the Air Force has gone farther. From a base in Utah, halfway round the globe, technicians, plugged in to the latest intelligence, are targeting sites where suspected Al Qaida members live and travel. Of course in war, mistakes are made, and collateral damage occurs. This week we learned how the President, on Terror Tuesdays, chooses which suspects will be killed in this manner. Indeed, why do they hate us? Men from Saudi Arabia were outraged that the U.S. had placed Air Force fighter aircraft and pilots in their sacred land. Osama bin Laden was one, and 15 of the 19 attackers on September 11 were Saudis. Our Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex creates and supplies weapons from most of the fifty states where disarmament would be an economic disaster. Whether it is the Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG), the Stinger anti-aircraft missle, the IED (Improvised Explosive Device), or the Land Mine, it was invented and manufactured in the USA. We are killing our own - and thousands of others - with our exports to a weaponized world.

Friday, May 25, 2012


On this Memorial Day weekend it is fitting to reflect on those whose graves we decorate, on those warriors whose sacrifice purchased our pursuit of happiness. It is a time for gatherings at lakes and parks - families coming together, and officials pointing to their accomplishments and viewing perceived threats with alarm. One of the frequent phrases that keeps challenging me as I listen to ceremonial addresses and urgent campaign appearances in this election year, refers to "America's Best Days." Always these days "still lie ahead." For a number of years - after crossing that Clinton Bridge into this Century - I have mentally disputed this claim about best days, to myself. After five years of a cruel recession, with college debt now exceeding credit card debt, with stubbornly high unemployment and record housing foreclosures, where ARE these better and best days? Where are the urgent measures to convince us we are getting there? No, I feel the gloom of the discouraged worker, the college graduate back at home without job interviews. The harsh recession brought on by financial manipulation and dishonest dealing on Wall Street keeps on punishing millions of ordinary citizens. So let the lies and the exaggerations about "best days" come to an end. Let us try to remember those who gave so much so that we could have another chance at life and liberty. Let us resolve to come together, help one another, and seek to end partisan, mean-spirited speech. Let us resolve to look to our better angels, to our wiser statesmen, and dig out of these tough times together. Maybe then our days as Americans "won't be so bad."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


It is April 16th, and I mailed tax returns to the federal and Minnesota state government today. One check and one refund request. I did it myself - not a big deal if you aren't a tax dodger, and if you learned to do arithmetic as a child. The larger question is what are "they" doing with the revenue from our Individual Income Tax submissions? First the Feds: the Pentagon gets the largest share of our "dues." Tax apologists like this writer have called taxes the "dues we pay for a civilized society." Recent news reports have documented what a terrible job the Army has done with its weapons procurement. "Two - two - and half" was the summary. An Army weapons project typically overruns to Twice the proposed budget, takes Twice as long as promised, and delivers Half of the expected performance. Some projects are cancelled only after its Research and Development has been completed. Despite some attempts, we are told that there has not been a complete and successful audit of the total Pentagon budget in many years. Our military readiness continues to be pretty good for fighting the last war and the one before that. We have a lot of tanks and armored personnel carriers, long-range jet bombers (older than the pilots), and twelve aircraft carriers with on-board squadrons of fighters and attack aircraft. Our hundreds of nuclear warheads can be targeted and delivered to potential enemies by a triad - of nuclear submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and piloted jet aircraft from land and sea. We are spending more than the rest of the world on weaponry, so that we can dominate the rest of the world. It is also true that our industrial complex advertises and sells guided missiles, anti-missile radars, combat aircraft, and warships to much of the rest of the world, providing jobs and profits here at home, and also contributing toward conflicts aboard - for our volunteer troops to join. All this in the name of "National Security." I believe it is time to reexamine the trillion dollar spending at the Pentagon. Time at last to audit the books. Time to scale back the military armaments that the United States maintains world wide. It is my opinion that doing so will help us all sleep better at night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


In the year 2012 our government agencies will face decisions about a new open pit mine and its remodeled taconite plant on a brown field in Northeastern Minnesota. The public discussion surrounding this project has been heating up because the mining location is literally "on the edge of the wilderness."

When a political friend sent out a blanket email with a rallying cry of opposition I recognized that the time had come to invite a thinking response to rhetoric about a threatened disaster.

Here follows the gist of my reply which I sent to the entire distribution list:

Fellow Minnesotans, before you join any "movement," please inform yourselves about the issues of protecting the environment while extracting essential metals from new ore deposits in Northern Minnesota. The environmental impact statement (EIS) to be issued in the next few months will be for the Polymet Mine near Hoyt Lakes. Permit applications to the U.S. EPA and MN DNR are for mining copper, nickel, and platinum group metals (PGM) in an open pit next to the former LTV taconite mine and mill (originally Erie Taconite).

Natural iron ore and taconite are made up of iron oxides and silicates. In close proximity on the east range are ore-grade deposits of copper and nickel sulphide minerals. It is important that sulphide-containing waste rock and tailings from these non-ferrous mines be covered and contained, away from exposure to the atmosphere. If not, sulphuric acid forms in the surface runoff. Acid mine drainage can and must be prevented by mining operators. Government inspectors and regulators must insure that waste water is contained and treated on site. This is a major issue in the permitting process now underway.

Let's avoid slogans and sound bites when we consider policies for Minnesotans that concern environmental safety, jobs, and economic security.

- Gordon O. Prickett, P.E.